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Taiwan's escalating suicidal problems

Posted by plosmedicine on 30 Mar 2009 at 23:55 GMT

Author: Prof. G. Agoramoorthy
Position: No occupation was given
Institution: Tajen University, Taiwan
E-mail: agoram@mail.tajen.edu.tw
Additional Authors: Minna J. Hsu
Submitted Date: June 12, 2006
Published Date: June 13, 2006
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

The article on the trends in suicidology by Savitz and colleagues makes an important and timely contribution [1]. All countries are susceptible to this hidden public health problem of suicide and 61% of the suicides in the world occur in Asia alone [2]. We would like to highlight the increase in suicidal cases in Taiwan (area 36,000 km2; population 22.9 million). Over the last decade, Taiwan's suicide rate has been alarmingly increasing, from 6.4 per 100,000 people in 1993 to 14.16 per 100,000 people in 2005.It ranks the 9th major cause of death and 3,000 people succeed each year in committing suicide while 30,000 contemplate in suicidal attempts.

When Taiwan's renowned television comedian, Ni Min-Jan, took his life in 2005, his suicide was in the spotlight of the local media until another suicide of a couple that met over the internet chat made a pact to end their lives took its place. Such overemphasized media coverage also promotes suicide as a ritualized phenomenon. For example, in 1998, when a woman in Hong Kong killed herself by sealing her apartment with tape and burning charcoal until she died of asphyxiation, the media sensationalized the coverage. This technique was later copied in Taiwan as a popular method to commit suicide in confined areas such as apartment rooms, cars, toilets, etc. When it comes to reporting suicide cases, the media should behave professionally and ethically and refrain from exaggeration.

What is more annoying is several internet sites portray suicidal methods with news bulletins where people who want to end their lives can find compatible people. Besides, 78 cases of 'family suicides' have also been recorded over the last decade in Taiwan and some suicidal parents kill their children before taking their own life. Taiwan's mounting suicidal problems are catalyzed often by job pressure, unemployment, recession and lack of support systems. According to Taiwan's Department of Health records, successful suicide attempts committed by people between the ages of 20 and 34 have risen from 22 suicides per 100,000 in 1994 to 37 in 2002.

Suicide can be prevented with proper attention to the warning signs of depression, and appropriate knowledge of where to seek help. Young people must be carefully monitored to provide opportunities to relieve study/job pressure. Parents and family members should teach children the value of living and the meaning of death, especially if they tend to exhibit any suicidal tendencies. It is essential to set up more suicide prevention and intervention programs in schools, colleges, universities, corporations and governmental organizations. For example, Tajen University, Taiwan provides a social and healthy environment with fun for students to relieve psychological pressure and depression. Thus the issue of suicidal prevention must be taken up by every community member through their institutions and society to decelerate the suicidal rate in Taiwan.

References

[1] Savitz JB, Cupido CL, Ramesar RS (2006) Trends in Suicidology: Personality as an Endophenotype for Molecular Genetic Investigations. PLoS Med 3(5): e107

[2] Vijayakumar L (2005) Suicide and metal disorders in Asia. International Review of Psychiatry 17(2): 109-114.

No competing interests declared.